Passwordless authentication: future of user security

August 25, 2023

80% of data breaches involve stolen passwordsThose who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. And it seems many people aren’t quite aware of the long history of ransomware attacks. Verizon noticed ransomware first in 2008 and since then, not much about how hackers gain access to systems has changed. Criminals still seek out unpatched vulnerabilities (like in the Kaseya breach) and weak passwords, just like they did when ransomware became a household term in the mid-aughts. Despite this fact, more than 80% of data breaches involve stolen passwords or credentials and leave digital identity security in question

Unfortunately, the growth of business networks and ubiquity of third parties connected via supply chains and partnerships has only given hackers ever more avenues for potential attack. Just as the Kaseya ransomware story demonstrated, once hackers gain access to a service provider’s system, they gain access to that provider’s clients, as well. In this hyper-connected paradigm, reliance on traditional password-based identity verification is becoming increasingly untenable. 

Luckily, there is a solution. 

Passwordless authentication solutions understand who the customer is

Passwordless authentication leverages biometrics to verify identities without traditional passwords and credentials. Leveraging cutting-edge technology to identify customers strengthens trust and offers a simple and secure way of accessing accounts without introducing friction into the customer experience. Passwordless authentication is making its presence felt as a transformative step forward in both security and user experience.

Consider the story of a large digital bank that provides services for younger consumers with limited work or credit histories. Customers like these may not have much to put into a savings account, but once it’s there, they expect their money to be safe. If the bank only required typical password-based account authentication, it would put the accounts of all its burgeoning investors at risk. 

Moreover, password-based logins only tend to slow down the customer experience. Think of passwords as you would the evolution of financial payment systems. Managing passwords is like the experience of going to the ATM, inserting a debit card, inputting a PIN, taking the cash and then going to the store to make a purchase. Stores that are cash-only introduce all those obstacles to their customer experience and send less-patient customers scurrying. 

Compare that experience to that of vendors with tap-to-pay sensors. Customers don’t even have to open their wallets; they can simply touch their phone to the sensor and be on their way. In much the same way that electronic payment systems removed the burden of ATM hunting, passwordless authentication solution relieve users from the tedious task of remembering or resetting passwords.

How Interactions with Banks Are Improved

That digital bank believed that identity verification should be built into every piece of its mobile app, online access point and in-branch kiosk UI. At every interaction, the bank asks clients for some form of authentication, such as a selfie or answer to a personal question. In many cases, these authentication touchpoints are passive, such that customers aren’t even aware they’re being asked for credentials. 

This approach to identity authentication helps both the consumer and the bank. Consumers are free from trying to memorize passwords, and constant identity checks make it harder for criminal actors to gain access to their accounts. The bank is able to better identify potentially risky clients, limiting avenues for fraud and maintaining the trust of its customer base.

Both parties benefit from faster processing speed during each and every interaction. Approaching digital services with seamless and ongoing passwordless methods during the authentication process keeps accounts safe without compromising on the customer experience.  



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Beyond passwords: a guide to biometric authentication


Ways to offer passwordless authentication methods are proliferating

As more interactions move online, passwords are quickly becoming more cumbersome and riskier than they are helpful. Passwordless authentication methods replace the conventional password, largely consisting of biometric authentication. Popular examples of passwordless authentication include:

  • Typical biometric authentication, which uses the customer’s physical characteristics, like a fingerprint, to allow for easy and fast login. 
  • Multi-factor authentication, which requires multiple pieces of evidence before granting access.
  • Face and voice biometrics that match a customer’s idiosyncratic facial expressions and voice patterns with existing samples of each. This method of authenticating identities is more than one-hundredfold secure than facial recognition alone.
  • Liveness detection goes a step further as a passwordless authentication solution and ensures that the account holder is actually present when logging in. This approach makes it much more challenging for hackers to use AI to create deepfakes or other biometrics-thwarting attacks. 
  • Enterprise-grade biometrics give companies a leg up on their competitors. Using biometrics platforms to safely store credentials away from the device while tying those credentials to the user rather than the device, is a much more robust and secure way to ensure customers are who they say they are.

These passwordless methods offer a higher level of security than traditional authentication as they are harder to replicate or steal. Biometric authentication is uniquely effective as it uses the most distinctive credential a person possesses — their own physical or behavioral traits. So, even though hackers are becoming more adept at crafting synthetic identities and deepfakes, strong passwordless authentication built around biometrics can keep criminal actors from even using stolen biometric data.  

Passwordless authentication plays a major role in the customer experience

Passwordless authentication is not just about enhancing security; it significantly improves the user experience, too. By embedding a passwordless login process into the entire user experience, firms can give users effortless account access with the peace of mind that they are more secure against data breaches than they are with traditional credentials-based logins. 

Consider how biometrics elevates the user experience. Customers need only take a selfie (an action many are deeply familiar with already) to check their balance or transfer money. As a passwordless authentication mechanism, biometrics are fast, user-friendly, and provide a seamless login experience. 

Companies from banks to insurance firms and everything in between can integrate modern forms of authentication into their customer experience from the jump. When customers sign up, firms can invite them to enroll their face or voice or other biometric signal. 

As users continue through the sign-up process, companies can deliberately guide them through the act of taking a selfie or saying a catchphrase that will become the baseline template. At various interaction points thereafter, companies can allow customers to sign on using only a selfie or catchphrase. AI-enabled identity verification platforms do the hard work in the background, learning as they go and improving the authentication process in the act.  

A holistic identity verification system that integrates passwordless authentication leverages multiple credentials and verification techniques, making it a formidable defense against potential security threats. It offers businesses a secure yet flexible system that not only guards against data breaches but also simplifies the login process, enhancing user satisfaction.

Ditch the password and move forward with intelligent authentication

Passwordless authentication marks a paradigm shift in the way both organizations and consumers approach online security. By eliminating the need for passwords, it decreases the risk of security incidents like data breaches. Moreover, the integration of biometrics into passwordless systems increases the system's resilience to attacks, providing a higher level of security.

Because passwordless authentication can also improve the user experience, it is a strong contender for the future of online security. Login systems that don’t rely on credentials that customers often forget and that hackers target strike a balance between user convenience and the system security.

The future of identity verification and authentication may be without the traditional password as we know it. Passwordless authentication has the potential to revolutionize online security and user experience, offering a robust, efficient, and user-friendly alternative to traditional authentication methods. As we continue to evolve our digital identities, it's clear that passwordless authentication will play an integral role in shaping the way we navigate this digital landscape.


Download Gartner's new report: Market Guide for Identity Verification


To see passwordless authentication in action, check out MiPass, the passwordless solution that’s easier for customers, safer than passwords, and simple to manage for everyone involved.